The Jerusalem Cross
Consisting of five crosses, four smaller crosses around a larger central cross, the Jerusalem Cross is a heraldry symbol for the Kingdom of Jerusalem and arose around the 11th century. Appearing as gold crosses atop of a silver shield, the Jerusalem Cross was not only displayed on the shields of Christian crusaders (sometimes red crosses), but it was also displayed on the arms of the King of Jerusalem and was flown as the cities flag. When Christ was crucified the Gospels claim Jesus endured five wounds, these famous “Five Wounds of Christ” are the basis for the symbolic meaning of the five crosses. Credited with the creation of the Jerusalem Cross, Godfrey of Bouillon – one of the early leaders of the First Crusade – created the symbol after his successful siege of Jerusalem and was then announced King. Despite performing the role of King, Godfrey did not accept the title of King claiming that the only King of Jerusalem was Jesus Christ himself. This symbol has now become most notable as five red crosses upon a white background. An example as such would be the modern use of the symbol on the Flag of Georgia (country), its also been adopted by the German Evangelical Church Congress, as well as the papal Order of the Holy Sepulchre. Many people now days only associate the Jerusalem Cross with the Christian Crusades and view the symbol repugnantly based on the atrocities that took place in the name of religion.
Named after one of the patron Saints of Ireland, Brigid of Kildare, Brigid’s Cross is typically composed of four arms with the a woven square pattern in the center. Historians believe that this cross was a pre-Christian solar symbol and times had only three arms. Brigid’s cross is traditionally made in Ireland every year on Febuary 1st in celebration of St. Brigid’s Feast Day; this celebration was originally a pagan ceremony commemorating the beginning of Spring. Its believed that Brigid’s crosses were made as amulets and were set above the doorway of a home to protect it from harm. The Christian legend associated with Brigid’s cross is that she, St. Brigid weaved this now iconic cross while sitting at the bedside of either her dying father or pagan Lord. The story goes that the pagan chieftain from Kildare was dying, and as he lay there Christian family members sent for Brigid to come talk to him about Christ. Answering her call Brigid rushes in hopes of a Christian conversion until she arrives at the man’s bedside and finds him in a delirious state. As Brigid began consoling the man she also started to weave the rushes that lay at her feet into this symbolic cross pattern. The sick man soon took notice to Brigid’s weaving and asked what she was doing? As the cunning Christian Brigid was, she then used that opportunity to tell the sick man stories about the significance of the Christian cross. The sick man’s delirium began to quiet and with growing interest peppered Brigid with questions. With the weaving of this cross, the story ends that Brigid was successful in her attempts at conversion and the pagan man was quickly baptized right before his death. This is how the symbol received it’s name. Now Brigid’s cross has become one of the famous symbols of Ireland along with the Shamrock as well as the harp and is seen often within Irish culture.
The Orphic Egg
This symbol of a snake wrapped around an egg comes to us from the Ancient Orphic myth of the hatching of the cosmic egg in which the hermaphroditic Greek god Phanes (Φάνης) was born. According to Geek mythology Phanes, a golden winged primordial being who hatched from the cosmic egg of Chronos and in turn created not only the universe but the rest of the Greek pantheon. Also referred to as Protogonos (Πρωτογόνος) “First-born” and sometimes Eros “Love,” Phanes actually means “manifestor” or “revealer” and is related to the Greek words for “light,” “shine-forth,” and the Latin “Lucifer.” Being that Phanes is such an old deity he has been equated with more recent gods such as Mithra, Zeus, Pan, Metis, Eros, Erikepaios, and Bromius. This egg with a snake wrapped around it became popularized by being on the cover of Jacob Bryant's book “Orphic Egg” in 1774 and is now used to generally symbolize the ancient Orphic myth.
Chnoubis is a hybrid creature that is composed of the head of a lion, body of a serpent, and usually has seven rays emanating from around his head. Chnoubis is often associated with the Egyptian Gnostic Archon and demiurge, Yaldabaoth, and is believed to be related to the deity Abraxas. Chnoubis was mostly found on small coins, inscribed on gnostic gems, talismans made from precious stones, and was used as a medical amulet to protect from disease and infection; the earliest inscribings of Chnoubis date to around the first century. The lion head of Chnoubis is symbolic of enlightenment and represents his solar forces, the serpent body symbolizes the lower impulses and earthly desires, the seven rays around the head are symbolic of the seven visible planets, the seven days of the week, the seven visible colors, and the seven Greek vowels. Despite originally being seen as a protecting figure and defender against demonic energies, Chnoubis is now often associated with satanic and demonic forces due to misconceptions related to his serpentine body.
Christian Rosenkreuz or Christian Rose Cross is an allegorical figure attributed with the founding of the famous Rosicrucian Order (Order of the Rose Cross). Rosicrucianism is an esoteric order that arose in the early 17th century in Europe and is based on several texts that purport the existence of an unknown order that is built upon ancient esoteric truths regarding insight into nature, the physical universe, and the spiritual realm. These texts are unmistakably composed of Christian, Hermetic, and Kabbalistic references. According to legend, Christian Rosenkreuz was a medical doctor who was revealed esoteric wisdom on a pilgrimage to the Middle East with Arab, Persian, and Turkish sages. Once returning back home, Christian Rosenkreuz founded the “Fraternity of the Rose Cross” and made himself (Frater C.R.C) Head of the Order. The lore of Christian Rosenkreuz continues after his death, for it is described that a Brother of the Order found his body preserved and still in perfect condition 120 years after his death, just as Rosenkreuz predicted. Inscribed on his sarcophagus was an interesting quote regarding Jesus, “Jesus is everything to me, by no means empty, the freedom of the gospel, the untouched glory of God, the yoke of the law.” Again, according to legend, Rosenkreuz's crypt was described as being located in the center of the Earth; many find this narrative to be symbolic of the alchemical motto V.I.T.R.I.O.L Visita Interiora Terrae Rectificando Invenies Occultum Lapidem ("Visit the interior of the Earth; by rectification thou shalt find the hidden stone"). The artwork I used today is a depiction of Christian Rosenkreuz’s grave, which is being shown under the Philosopher’s Mountain; the date 1604 is not the date of publication but signifies the event of Rosenkreuz’s death.
The Rose Cross or Rosy Cross
Continuing with my symbol from yesterday of Christian Rosenkreuz, founder of the Rosicrucian Order, today is a symbol related to Rosicrucianism itself, the rose cross. The type of Rose Cross I chose today is actually called the Rosy Cross and comes from the famous esoteric society the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Typically the Rose Cross can be found with just a simple red or white cross with a white or red rose at the center. However, the Rosy Cross is an image rife with many layers of symbolism. To begin, notice that the four arms of the cross are colored according to the four elements in which they symbolize. Surrounding the pentagrams on each arm are drawn the symbol of the spirit along with symbols representing the four elements. At the very ends of each arm three alchemical symbols are displayed, these are the alchemical principles of sulfur, mercury, and salt. The white section just underneath the very center is symbolic of the Holy Spirit; a closer inspection will reveal that the Star of David within the white section also has the alchemical symbols for all 7 (visible with the eye) planets with the sun in the center. The colored petals surrounding the Rose Cross in the center represent the 22 paths on the Tree of Life as well as the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. The white rays of light that are protruding forth from behind the actual cross are rays of the divine light representing the highest of all sephirots, Keter or Kether. Kether can also be found as the white circle laying behind the very center yellow cross with a red rose, symbolizing that divine light is both at the very center of things as well as expanding out. The white rays that are expanding out also have the initials INRI; according to legend these letters were placed on Jesus’ cross in Greek (INBI), Hebrew, and Latin and translate to English as “Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews.” Its believed the reason Rosicrucians use the cross is to symbolize the body and the rose to symbolize the blossoming of consciousness. As you can see the Golden Dawn’s Rosy Cross is fairly complex and in it can be found attributes for the elements, planets, zodiac, the Hebrew alphabet, alchemical principles, the hexagram and pentagram, the Tree of Life, and the initials INRI.
The Ankh is not only an Egyptian hieroglyph meaning “life, to live, eternity” but also it is an ancient Egyptian symbol found in artwork, reliefs, funerary paraphernalia, and in the hand of about every deity in the Egyptian pantheon. The number of meanings and interpretations that can be drawn from this symbol is awe-inspiring and in no way will I cover all of them here. The ankh is composed of essentially a tau cross surmounted by a loop or circle. One interpretation from Thomas Inman in 1869 is that the two separate elements that compose the Ankh symbolize, "the male triad and the female unit." This is very probable considering how often androgyny is used to symbolize true divinity; god is solely neither male nor female. Another theory sees the ankh as a solar symbol, with the round portion symbolizing the sun as it comes over the morning horizon. This is also very credible for multiple reasons; first the Egyptians like our other ancestral traditions were obsessed with astrology and astronomy, also Egypt’s religious tradition tended to be very solar oriented. Not to mention that within many cultures the cross is often used to symbolize the sun, which stems astrologically from the suns location being on the cross of the zodiac. Regarding its mythological meaning, the ankh was thought of as a key to the afterlife. Egyptians believed the ankh to be the key that unlocks the gates of death and allow a person to enter the realm that lay beyond. Because of the myths describing the ankh as a key to eternal life, early Coptic Christians adopted the ankh as a symbol for the redeeming and everlasting-life provided by their messiah, Jesus Christ. In fact the name of the Christian ankh is “crux ansata.” Since the 1960’s and its popularization by the New Age Movement, the ankh has become almost a pop-cultural symbol that can be seen in Katy Perry music videos, on the chains of rappers, or as modern tattoos. Despite some of its popular use, the ankh is a powerful, deeply symbolic, and timeless symbol that will continue to enlighten, mystify, and aid people on their own journey towards death and eternal life.
The Hamsa Hand
The Hamsa hand’s earliest recorded use is found in Carthrage (modern day Tunisia), and is an ancient amulet that spread from North Africa to the Middle East and eventually to India. The Hamsa is an amulet of a right hand with an eye in the palm and has been used by Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhist, and Jains as a powerful amulet that protects people from the clutches of evil. For Muslims, the Hamsa hand is often referred to as the “Hand of Fatima,” Fatima being the daughter of the Prophet Muhammad. The Hamsa hand has been found in artifacts all over the ancient Near East, and even Middle Eastern Christians have adopted it as a protective amulet called the “Hand of Mary.” Though it is hard to tell based on the depiction of the pinky and thumb, the Hamsa hand is typically of a right hand and is symbolizing someone holding up their hand as if to say “stop;” the Hamsa with fingers slightly spread is part of a curse meant to blind the aggressor, with the fingers closed it is believed to be a good luck charm in addition to a protective amulet. Due to its prevalence in Islam many have associated the Hamsa with Islamic culture however this symbol has gained popularity with Israeli Jews as well as Indian traditions. In Egypt the Hamsa hand was associated with the eye of Horus. They believed that the Moon and Sun were both the eyes of Horus and that humans cannot escape from the eye of conscience just as evil cannot escape from the eye of Hamsa. Today the Hamsa hand is a very popular symbol among the “spiritual but not religious” and is mostly seen in the form of jewelry, tattoos, clothing, or as wall hangings.
Derived form Sanskrit, Namaste is a popular Indian greeting and sendoff that essentially translates to “I bow to the divine in you.” Literally, Namah means “bow” and te means “to you;” however, given Hinduism’s concept of the atman – the soul in me is the same soul in you – it is more often understood as not just a bowing but a honoring of the divine in each other. Namaste may be spoken but is often symbolized by a gesture; the gesture is performed as a slight bow, with hands pressed together, palms touching, fingers pointed to the sky, and thumbs close to the center of the chest. Female terracotta figurines in Namaste posture have been found in relation to the Indus Valley civilization and date back to 3,000 BCE. Despite originating within Hinduism, fellow Indian traditions Jainism and Buddhism have both appropriated the greeting and in fact there are many depictions of the Buddha in Namaste meditative postures. The sacredness of Namaste has even withstood its adoption within secular cultures and is now a popular greeting among modern spiritualist. Namaste has certainly survived the test of time. Even in the busy hyper-connected world of today, Namaste has broken through cultural and linguistic barriers, in addition to being a popular emoji it is still used to expresses courtesy, honor, and politeness from one person to another. Namaste friends🙏.
Originating among the Ojibwe people, the dreamcatcher is an iconic Native American/First Nations symbol that surprisingly was not spread among various native cultures until the Pan-Indian Movement of the 1960s and 1970s. According to American ethnographer Frances Densmore, the dreamcatcher comes from legends regarding the Spider Woman, which describe she (Spider Woman), as a guardian like figure that takes care of the children and people of the land. Therefore, when the Ojibwe people started to spread throughout North America mothers and grandmothers began to weave magical webs for the children so Spider Woman could still protect and reach them. In Ojibwe,“asabikeshiinh” is the inanimate word for spider and therefore meaning dreamcatcher. Dreamcatchers are usually composed of a handmade willow hoop, on which is woven a net or web and made with cordage from plants. To the Native traditions that adopted them, dreamcatchers were thought of as spider webs that would catch and hold any harm that might be in the air. Nowadays dreamcatchers have become a popular commodity for non natives to make, exhibit, and sell, but for some Natives dreamcatchers are seen as over-commercialized and have been an undesirable form of cultural appropriation.
Vishnu, the preserver of all things, is one of the principal deities in the Hindu pantheon and is one leg of the Hindu trinity along with Brahma and Shiva. Vishnu breaks down etymologically from the Sanskrit root “viś” meaning “to pervade,” thereby connoting Vishnu as the "one who is everything and inside everything;" Vishnu means "all pervasive." Vishnu is typically depicted with a blue complexion and having four arms. In his lower left hand he holds a lotus flower (padma) symbolic of enlightenment and Vishnu’s wisdom. In his upper left hand he holds a conch shell (panchajanya shankha), which is symbolic of Vishnu’s battle with Panchajanya – an evil sea demon – and after defeating the demon, Vishnu takes the shell, names it after the demon, and according to legend when Vishnu blows into the shell it foreshadows the death of his next enemy. In his lower right hand Vishnu holds a mace (kaumodaki gada), which is one of the oldest and strongest Indian weapons and is symbolic of Vishnu’s power. In his upper right hand he holds a discus (sudarshana chakra), which is an auspicious sign related to Vishnu and symbolizes the wheel of time. The last iconic symbol of Vishnu is Ananta, the King of all nagas, which is the hooded cobra that protects Vishnu is often depicted as laying or standing atop of Ananta. Vishnu has many avatars that he appears as and these include Krishna in the Mahabharata, Rama in the Ramayana, Narayana, Jagannath, Vasudeva, Vithoba, Hari, and more. In addition to being the supreme deity in the Vaishnavism tradition, Vishnu is one of the most popular gods in the entire Hindu pantheon and will continue to be worshiped and celebrated for generations to come.
This star is the iconic symbol of Raëlism, a UFO religion founded in 1947 by Claude Vorilhon. Vorilhon, a former French automobile journalist and racecar driver wrote in his books “The Book Which Tells the Truth” (1974) and “Extraterrestrials Took Me to their Planet” (1975), that he had alien encounters with beings that gave him the true origins of all the world religions. One of the central teachings of the Raëlian Movement is that life on Earth was the product of a scientific experiment performed by a species of extraterrestrials they refer to as the Elohim. Elohim is a plural Hebrew term referring to “gods” or “deities” commonly found in the Old Testament. Raelians believe that messengers and prophets of other traditions such as Jesus or the Buddha are in fact informed humans from different eras and cultures. Raelians strive for world peace, sharing, democracy, and nonviolence; they believe that once humans become aware and peaceful enough, we can welcome the Elohim to live among us. Because the earlier version of the Raelian symbol was composed of a swastika inside the star of David, Raelians were denied territory requests in Israel and Lebanon. The newer version, as I have chosen for today, is said to resemble a spinning galaxy. Now when you see this interesting symbol on the bumper of the car in front of you you’ll know you’re following a Raelian cult member.
The Peace Sign
There have been various symbols that symbolized peace over the centuries, for Early Christians the white dove or the olive branch were used. In 1958 Gerald Holtom designed what is now regarded as the international peace sign. This now iconic symbol was originally the logo of the British Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, a group that stood at the forefront of the peace movement in the UK. Eventually the symbol was adopted by hippies, counter-culturists, and anti-war protestors in the United States and else where in the world. Holtom designed the symbol as a combination of the semaphore signals for the letters "N" and "D," standing for “nuclear disarmament.” Semaphore is a method of communication by way of flags typically used in the navy/sailing as well as in aviation. The letter “N” is performed by holding flags down in by your side in a upside down V shape; “D” is performed by placing flags straight up and down. Therefore, the peace sign is literally the superimposing of both semaphore letters N and D. Interestingly, between 1968 and 1971, the John Birch Society started rumors about the peace sign claiming it was a sign of the devil and a Nazi "rune." In 1971, Peggy Duff, the general secretary of CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) at the time, re-affirmed these notions about the peace sign saying that the inside was a "runic symbol for death of man" and the circle the "symbol for the unborn child." Even more surprisingly, in 1973 the South African government tried to ban the symbol and its use by opponents of the apartheid. Despite its controversial use at times, the peace sign continues to be a very popular symbol among the New Age and doesn’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon.
The Book “Mutus Liber”
Published in 1677 in La Rochelle, France, Mutus Liber is a Hermetic philosophical book and arguably ranks among the highest of all alchemical books along with “Atalanta Fugiens” by Michael Maier. Mutus Liber mainly consists of pictures and illustrations representing alchemical truths, however, there is considerable controversy regarding the interpretation of the text and what it means. No one is sure who authored the Mutus Liber but we do know that when it was first published in 1677 only few dozen copies were made. Despite there being multiple theories and interpretations regarding the Mutus Liber, the one that I am most fond of is Carl Jung’s. Jung owned a copy of the rare original 1677 printing and used it considerably to illustrate his book “Psychology and Alchemy.” Jung saw alchemy as expressing deep unconscious archetypes regarding the spiritual equilibrium of an individual which ends with the metaphorical philosophers stone. For Jung, alchemy was using what we would now call chemistry and art to express, sublimate, and amalgamate internal conflicts of the self and psyche. Whether conscious or not, alchemy was depicting very similar archetypes and concepts that Jung discovered through his years of working with his patients. For me, alchemy is almost the exteriorization of mind and allows us in the modern world to glance back at the psyche of those who created these magical works.
As one of the oldest methods for measuring time, the hourglass has been used as a symbol to represent the passing of time, the brevity of life, future and past, death, and has lasted much longer as a symbol than its actual use as a time keeper. The origins of the hourglass are uncertain, however, its predecessor the clepsydra, or water clock is believed to have been invented in India. According to the American Institute of New York, the clepsammia or sand-glass was invented in Alexandria, Egypt about 150 BCE. The first representation of the hourglass in art isn’t found until 350 CE on a sarcophagus depicting the wedding of Peleus and Thetis with the hourglass held by Morpheus – the Greek god of dreams and sleep. Surprisingly the hourglass was not recorded in Europe prior to the Early Middle Ages. As a symbol the hourglass has not only been used as a metaphor for the shapely figure of a woman, but also the hourglass is related to the lemniscate, or infinity sign. Because the hourglass can be turned upside down after all the sand has fallen, it can be seen as symbolic of rebirth and the restarting of infinite cycles. In alchemy the hourglass is a symbol for hour, in England they have been placed on coffins and gravestones for years, and are commonly placed on coats of arms. A modern symbolic use can be found with the American soap-opera “Days of our Lives,” since 1965 the show has displayed an hourglass in the opening credits with the phrase, "Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives."
In Latin meaning “three cornered,” the Triquetra is comprised of three interlocking vesica piscis and often depicted linked together with a circle. Similar to the Nordic valknut, the triquetra is an ancient symbol that predates Christianity despite having been appropriated as a symbol for the Holy Trinity; in more recent times the triquetra is often seen in association with all things Celtic. The Celts are known for making impressive and intricate knots with the triquetra being one of the simplest. For Celts the triquetra is often symbolic of the Tripple Goddess. For Pagan and Neopagan communities the triquetra symbolizes many different sacred trinities such as Land, Sea, and Sky; Heaven, Earth, and Underworld; past, present, and future. A feature of the triquetra that makes it a very powerful amulet is its ability to be drawn without lifting the pen or pencil from the paper. Today the triquetra is often seen in media, logos, film, art, and is typically associated with Celtic and Nordic paganism.
First appearing in Dr. John Dee’s 1564 book “Monas Hieroglyphica,” the Monad is an esoteric symbol composed of various astrological symbols and embodies Dee’s vision regarding the unity of the cosmos. The top of the monad is composed of the astrological symbol for the moon (crescent moon shape) ☽ superimposed atop of the solar sign of the sun (circle with dot in the middle) ☉. Beneath the sun is a cross shape symbolizing the four elements with the astrological symbol for Aries underneath it ♈; Aries is the first astrological house of each year and is a fire symbol, thereby it was used by Dee to symbolize fire. After Dee created the monad the symbol was then adopted by Alchemists, Rosicrucians, and esotericists alike. Dee’s influence even spread to Puritanism in the New World through John Winthrop, Jr., an alchemist, governor of Connecticut, and a follower of Dee who adopted the monad as his personal symbol. Despite the monad being popularized and explained by John Dee, some believe the famous alchemist Athanasius Kircher was the first to actually propose the symbol. The monad has been and continues to be an often seen and used symbol among magicians and occultists and will continue to mystify and inform people on the unity of the universe.
Despite generally being associated with Buddhism, sand mandalas are actually a Tibetan Buddhist tradition composed of brightly colored granules of sand and are ritually constructed into elaborate designs and then destroyed to symbolize the transitory nature of reality. Before they begin laying down the sand, the monks assigned to the project will first hand draw the geometric measurements related with the chosen mandala. They will then use small tubes or funnels called “chak-pur,” which lets only a few granules out at a time and allows the monks to design their intricate patterns. These mandalas take several days to complete with many monks in teams working on their designated section. Similar to all mandalas, the goal of their construction is to make a two-dimensional representation of a three-dimensional environment. The typical colors used in mandalas are blue, red, yellow, green, white, and charcoal for black outlining. It is common for many different groups of monks to travel around the world to various locations and construct sand mandalas in front of spectators for them to see the brilliance these artworks truly possess. As I mentioned, the end of every construction has a ceremonial destruction; there is a specific order in which the deities, their syllables, and geometric patterns are destroyed. All the sand is then collected, placed in jar, wrapped in silk, and then taken to a river or local body of moving water where it is then released back into nature. In the very center of the mandala I chose today you will see the eight auspicious symbols of Buddhism (conch, endless knot, fish, lotus, parasol, vase, dharmachakra, and victory banner).
The Ashoka Chakra
Most often seen in the center of the flag of India, the Ashoka Chakra is an ancient Indian symbol that is associated with Gautama Buddha and him introducing his teaching to his five disciples (Assaji, Mahānāma, Kondañña, Bhaddiya and Vappa). This introduction essentially established the dhamachakra - Buddha's teachings on how to be released from Samsara - and is the motive of the Ashoka Chakra. Despite the actual dharmachakra being an eight-spoke wheel, the Ashoka Chakra has twenty four spokes; the first twelve represent the twelve stages of suffering and the last twelve symbolize “no cause no effect.” Therefore, what is being implied is that through correct thoughts, awareness of mind, and mental conditioning, one can experience Nirvana and break free from the natural cycle of death and rebirth. Ironic with its spiritual origins, the Ashoka Chakra is now the highest peacetime military decoration awarded for valour, courageous action or self-sacrifice away from the battlefield in the Indian military.